Paper Tigers is an intimate look into the lives of selected students at Lincoln High School, an alternative school that specializes in educating traumatized youth. Set amidst the rural community of Walla Walla, WA, the film intimately examines the inspiring promise of Trauma Informed Communities – a movement that is showing great promise in healing youth struggling with the dark legacy of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACES).
Exposure to chronic and adverse stress (and the altered brain function that results) leaves a child in a fruitless search for comfort and escape from a brain and body that is permanently stuck in flight or fight. That comfort comes in the form of drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, sex, food and more.
Every year, millions of unloved and traumatized youth enter adulthood with damaged brains and hearts. They are highly predisposed to die from self-destructive behaviors, and highly likely to continue the cycle of abuse. Even those who do not engage in self destructive behaviors are highly predisposed to get cancer, high blood pressure, diabetes, and immune disorders.
The impact of unloved and traumatized children on society is profound and widespread. 85% of inmates were traumatized as youth. 27% of hospital visits can be traced to causes linked to childhood trauma. Hurt kids grow up to hurt people. The generational cycles of trauma and abuse are as stubborn as they are tragic.
But there is hope.
There are doctors, researchers, teachers, nurses, social workers and law enforcement officers that are turning the tide against the cycle of trauma and abuse. A movement is rising, one that sees aberrant behavior in children as a symptom rather than a moral failing. This movement asks not what is wrong with our youth, but rather what has happened to them. The paradigm is shifting from punishment and blame to a deeper commitment to understanding and healing the underlying causes of aberrant behavior. With this shifting paradigm comes the promise of great improvements in many of the society’s costly ills: less crime, less illness, less teen pregnancy, abuse, rape, divorce.
Simply put, it is cheaper to heal than to punish. Paper Tigers takes a look at what is possible.